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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Kava Alez

«One False Move», Alez Kava

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PART 1 Blind Man's Bluff

Friday, August 27


1:13 p.m.

Nebraska State Penitentiary- Lincoln, Nebraska

Max Kramer wore his lucky red tie with his blue power suit. While he waited for the guard to unlock the door, he admired his reflection in the glass security window behind them. That Grecian hair formula really worked. He could barely see any of the gray. His wife kept telling him the salt and pepper made him look more distinguished. Of course she would say that. She always said stuff like that when she was suspicious, when she knew he was hunting for someone new. God, she knew him well, better than she realized.

"Big day," the hulk of a guard said to him. But he was scowling instead of smiling.

Max had heard the nicknames the guards had given him in the last several weeks. He knew he wasn't a popular guy here on death row. But that was to the guards. To the inmates he had reached hero status. And they were the ones he cared about; they were the ones who counted.

They needed him to right their wrongs, to tell their stories, or rather their versions of their stories. Yes, they were the ones who mattered, but not because he was a bleeding-heart liberal like the Omaha World Herald or the Lincoln Journal Star seemed pleased to label him. It was nothing quite as admirable as all that. Quite simply, all his hard work, all his efforts were for a day like today. A day when he could watch a client of his walk out of this concrete hellhole. A day when he could save his client from the electric chair and walk alongside him out the front doors and into the sunlight. The sunlight and the spotlight of about two dozen TV cameras from across the country. CNN's Larry King had already booked Max and Jared on his show for tomorrow night. And his red tie would show up wonderfully tonight when NBC aired his interview with Brian Williams.

Yes, this was what he had waited for his entire career. All the shitty pay and long hours would be worth it, and the local media attacks would come to an end.

He stopped at the doorway to the holding room, pretending to show some respect for his client's privacy. Pretending. He didn't want to spend any more time alone with Jared Bar-nett than necessary. So he watched from the doorway. Bar-nett was wearing the same faded jeans and red T-shirt he had surrendered that first day at the penitentiary five years ago, only now the T-shirt bulged from the muscles Barnett had built up during his days of incarceration. Since Barnett had traded in his orange jumpsuit for street clothes, Max couldn't help thinking how ordinary the man looked. Even his short dark hair had that disheveled but cool look, that just-got-out-of-bed look that Max could never pull off, but that Barnett would probably make trendy after his media appearances.

Max had already made his client out to be the poor misunderstood bad boy who had been framed and then abused by a justice system that had stolen five years of his life. Now Barnett just needed to play the role. He certainly looked it.

The guard at the door stepped aside.

"Paperwork's coming," he said. "You want, you can wait inside."

Max nodded as if grateful for the invitation-for what the guard seemed to consider a courtesy-even though Max preferred that the asshole let him wait in the hall. Too late. Jared saw him and waved him into the holding room. He stood up when Max entered, another courtesy. Jesus! What was this world coming to when convicted murderers started being courteous?

"Relax. Take a load off." Max shoved one of the metal folding chairs in Barnett's direction, scraping it against the floor, the noise grating on his nerves. Only now did he realize he was nervous, nervous that Barnett would screw this up for him.

"Man, I never thought you'd actually be able to pull this off," Barnett said, taking the seat, seemingly not bothered that Max remained standing. It was a trick Max had learned long ago in his early years as a defense attorney. Get the client to sit down while you stand over him, instant authority. At five feet seven inches Max Kramer had to use every trick he could.

"So how does this work?" Barnett asked, even though Max had explained it several times during the appeal. His client sounded as if he believed there was still a catch. "I'm really free to go?"

"Without Danny Ramerez as a witness the prosecution has no case. The rest of the evidence was all circumstantial. As long as there's no eyewitness testimony from Ra-merez, there's nothing to connect you to Rebecca Moore." Max watched Barnett, measuring his response, or rather his lack of one. "It was quite admirable of Mr. Ramerez to come forward and finally tell the truth, that he wasn't even there that afternoon."

Barnett smiled up at him, but there was somtuung about his smile that creeped Max out. Never once during the appeal process had he asked how Barnett had managed to get Ramerez to recant his original testimony, but he suspected Barnett had, indeed, made it happen, despite being locked up.

"What about the others?" Barnett asked.

"Excuse me?"

Max waited, but Barnett sat cleaning his fingernails, using his teeth to scrape them out and then bite off the cuticles. He had seen him do this in court-a nervous habit, probably an unconscious one. And now Max wondered if he had heard him correctly. Jesus! What others was he talking about?

Max hadn't handled Barnett's original case, only the appeal. But he wasn't stupid. He knew there had been others. Other women, all murdered with the same M.O. and the signature gunshot wound up through the jaw as if the killer had hoped to remove the victim's identity by shattering her teeth. It didn't matter. Barnett had only been charged with Rebecca Moore's murder. Why the hell would Barnett even be asking about the others?

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